The rift in Venezuela continued to deepen Sunday as thousands of anti-government opposition activists took to the streets of Caracas, Venezuela in an attempt to grow their ranks in a country that remains largely pro-government.
Under the banner "Caracas is mobilized," students and other Venezuelans protesting against the democratically elected government of Nicholas Maduro dressed in white, blew whistles and blasted horns, AFP reports.
Al Jazeera's Chris Arsenault, reporting from Caracas, said that Sunday's demonstration "seemed to be largest opposition rally since protests began in February." However, he added that the largely pro-government residents of downtown Caracas chanted, "You will not come back!" as the opposition marchers passed.
Government officials Sunday released about 40 protesters after they were arrested amidst violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces on Friday.
Among those detained and released were a number of foreign journalists including US freelance reporter Andrew Rosati, who writes for the Miami Herald, Italian photographer Francesca Commissari, and a team of journalists from the AP news agency, according to Venezuela's journalist association SNTP.
This past week Eva Golinger, an American-Venezuelan lawyer and author of The Chavez Code, spoke at length with independent journalists Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek about parallels between the current uprising and the 2002 coup against former president Hugo Chavez, and how the media's distortion of Venezuelan politics has contributed to both events.
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Today, basically what’s going on is that we’re seeing now that Chavez has passed away and his leadership has left sort of a void [...] [T]hese very same groups led by the very same people who executed the coup twelve years ago still refuse to accept the legitimacy of this government and the existence of the Bolivarian revolution.
Now, [they’re] using sort of a fresh face to get out there and do a protest. The traditional opposition is burned. They’re credibility is ruined. The people don’t really want them. They want something new and so a lot of what we are seeing, youthful faces and so-called student protesters, who are coming out and what the underlying goal is again regime change. So they are using the same methodology of peaceful protest that engage in confrontations and then we’ve got the media manipulations distortion…
Sunday's demonstration comes amidst Carnival—which Maduro has extended into a 6-day holiday—during which Venezuelans typically go to the beach and spend time with their families. This week will also mark the one year anniversary of the March 5 passing of Chavez.
"We are demonstrating for the dead," engineering student Argenis Arteaga told AFP, in reference to the 18 people who have died since the uprisings began on February 4. "There is no carnival, there is nothing to celebrate."
— Chris Arsenault (@AJEchris) March 2, 2014